Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge – Milwaukee

Days: Tuesday-Thursday 
Times: 5-9pm 
Drink Deals: Half-off Old Fashioneds and Depression Era Cocktails 
Food Deals: N/A 


Drink Up: Classic Milwaukee Bar does right with $3.50 cocktails that hit the spot. Plus the music and the scene are straight out of a Scorsese picture! 

Spill the Wine: Nothing, Bryant’s is pretty terrifical. 


Open since 1938, Bryant’s touts itself as Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge, and they get plenty of great press; they were recently featured in the New York Times' “What to do in 36 Hours in Milwaukee” (a handy little must list for visitors, by the way). But what they should really be using as their ace-in-the-hole marketing tagline is this apt description from my cousin, “you’ll feel like you’re in the back seat of a Cadillac.” 

And hot damn, who hasn’t ever wanted to feel like you’re in the back seat of a Cadillac?! Naughty readers, none of you – I can assure you it’s a natural primal instinct to want to spend time in the back seat of a Caddy! 

And what makes Bryant’s such a powerful tool for General Motors is: 

• Their storied history and their place in Milwaukee’s culture, Bryant’s started out as a “tied house” (tied to Miller Brewery) in 1936, but became a cocktail-only joint in 1938. Original owner Bryant Sharp invented the Pink Squirrel and Banshee, classic cocktail names if I’ve ever heard them! 

After Bryant’s death in the 60’s, employee Pat Malmberg took over, even creating a 2nd floor lounge, a private space open on the weekends and featuring black on black velvet damask wall-paper. I want to have a Beetlejuice party here – Bryant’s hosted their Mad Men party here last weekend! 

• In the downstairs main lounge, it’s their red, dark, retro lounge vibe with a complementary punch of green color from the aquarium behind the bar. This space sits within a location that basically looks like a regular house from the outside, and isn’t a Cadillac the closest car we have to a house?! 

 From the outside, Bryant's looks like a house, and I'm hearing "Day 'N' Night" 
in my head - sorry/ you're welcome for getting it stuck in yours! 

• The soundtrack that features Milwaukee’s jukebox hero Otis Redding as well as The Flamingos, whose deeply romantic “I Only Have Eyes For You” should be the official song of a Cadillac’s backseat.

• The knowledgeable bartenders who carry on the tradition of the bar and will make you basically whatever you desire – say for instance you’re having a rough day and want something to take the edge off, preferably starring bourbon – and you might end up with a “Railsplitter” or “Bob Frost.” Seriously, they don’t even have a printed menu and here’s a great explanation why that is, along with some delicious sounding drinks they can make you. Our bartender Michael was the all-singing, all-dancing bartender of the world and therefore, he is the best.

Michael making Old Fashioneds for the Old Fashioned Birthday Bus Tour that made 
a mandatory stop at Bryant's!

Also the best is their Old Fashioned Happy Hour, running Tuesday to Thursday from 5-9pm and featuring half-off Old Fashioneds and Depression Era Cocktails, which are basically a variety of cocktails from the depression era that were created with flavors intended to mask the taste of bootleggin’ moonshine!

Bourbon Old Fashioned - $3.50 during Old Fashioned Hour!

For my first Bryant’s visit, Milwaukee Film pal Ogs and I enlisted a group of other film gal-pals and my cousin (the tagline writin’ acupuncturist who moved to town recently, we’ll call her Needles!) for a Thursday night meet-up. I was definitely in a bourbon kind of mood and started with an Old Fashioned made with bourbon (the traditional base is brandy here in Wisconnie) which ran me only $3.50. Daaaayyumm, Cadillac!  

Having our own Ladies' Night at Bryant's!

The other gals were feeling also feeling Bourbon-y and Michael poured them Railsplitters (with vermouth, a little too smooth for my taste) and Bob Frosts (a twist on the “Jack Frost” with Bourbon and lemon and lime, perfect for my taste!); Ogs wanted something with gin and enjoyed a gin-variation on the Beachcomber; and another dame went for the straight up ice cream delight that is… the Grasshopper, which wasn’t on HH – but definitely fits the bill for Cadillac backseat cocktail! 

Whose cocktail is this? I think I know -- JB's "Bob Frost"

Next time I visit during non-Old Fashioned Hour, I look forward to trying one of the below: 

Rat Pack – This hurricane drink contains everything the Rat Pack drank: whiskey, gin, brandy, and vermouth. You would never guess it could taste so good.

JB Comment: Dean-o, Sammy D, Frankie baby, come step into my Cadillac! (Or with all that damn booze, my ambulance! My Cadillac ambulance (they do make ‘em :)!

Black Magic – This is a very popular hurricane cocktail that tastes a little like a grape Sweet-tart, is very refreshing, and, best of all, is delivered to your table on fire. And yes, the main ingredient is magic. 

JB COMMENT: As Frank might sing, “Those fingers in my hair, that sly come hither stare that strips my conscience bare… It’s witchcraft!” Also, fun fact - JG's magic producer skills earned her the title of "Black Magic!"

DeFrongue – Some of our drinks are more than just cocktails, they are legends. The DeFrongue is one of those drinks. Made from a secret recipe, this heady drink is known as an aphrodisiac. Best part? You get a poem book that illustrates the DeFrongue’s mysterious properties. 

JB Comment: Cocktail? Aphrodisiac? Book of poetry? YES!!!!! My heart is aflutter! 

The bar doesn’t serve any food, and I know I just harped on Blackbird last week for not offering food deals, BUT at Bryant’s, the atmosphere is not really a dining one. I mean, who wants to eat in the backseat of a Cadillac when there are so many other things you could be doing?! These guys know what I’m talking about… 

Just like the back of a Cadillac, Bryant’s is worth at least one visit in your lifetime (or more!). So why not come during their Old Fashioned Hour, when the price is right for any budget – Chevy, Buick, or Cadillac!! 

-- JB
Old Fashioned Gal!


Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge 
Neighborhood: Historic Mitchell Street 

1579 S. 9th St.
Milwaukee, WI 
(414) 383-2620 

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